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Do I Stay or Do I Go Now?
By Susan Reiter
March 1, 2011

He’s busy; he’s in demand; he’s even bi-coastal. Larry Keigwin’s dynamic, witty and imaginative choreography has turned up almost everywhere you look these days.
He was included this season at Fall for Dance, January’s Gotham Dance Festival, and the New York Choreographic Institute’s 10th anniversary program (along with Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon). Keigwin staged the opening night extravaganza around the Lincoln Center fountain for Fashion Week last September, and he’s been tapped to choreograph a new musical—Tales of the City at San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theater—as well as this summer’s new Off-Broadway production of Rent.
Next week, his crack ensemble of seven dancers, Keigwin Company, returns to the Joyce Theater to premiere Exit, a new hour-long work that ventures towards a darker side. Keigwin’s savvy blend of hip edginess and lucid craftsmanship will be on display in a more extended form in this piece, which features original music by Jerome Begin and Chris Lancaster.
“The collaborators and dancers and I were really interested in creating the world of a subterranean club, very late in one debaucherous evening,” Keigwin says of the new dance, which he has worked on intermittently (between his many other projects) over a period of nearly a year. “You catch the performers at that moment in the wee hours where they’re asking themselves, ‘Do I stay or do I go?’ And I think that metaphor in the journey of the night out—when to say, ‘Good night’—can also be used in relationships, or addictions. The idea of ‘exit’ speaks to that larger theme of ‘When do I go, when do I stay?’ I think it’s very physical, which is probably a trademark of our work anyway. It might be a little more nuanced, and more performer-specific. It definitely spans a range of movement: club, social, contemporary, theatrical. It’s interesting that I’m not dancing in it, so maybe even more of the movement comes from the dancers.”
For the score, Begin will be mixing and playing the synthesizer live, with a mix that incorporates Lancaster’s recorded composition for cello and bass guitar. Within the layered electronic soundscape are a couple of popular songs, including one by Kanye West. The costumes, Keigwin says with a laugh, “are similar to what you might find somebody wearing at 3 a.m. in a dark, dingy club.”
This is Keigwin’s first attempt at a continuous full-evening work. (His popular suite The Elements comprised a full evening, but was in four distinct sections, with an intermission.) “A lot of times I take my cues from the dancers, and after we made 15 minutes of a work-in-progress in Santa Barbara, the dancers really enjoyed the process, and were interested in exploring it for an hour. There are certain challenges in terms of pacing, endurance and variety—and also in finding an arc. It’s loosely narrative, in a way that hopefully allows the audience members to find their own through-lines.”
Keigwin’s links to the clubs (his wide-ranging resumé includes an early stint as a back-up dancer for Downtown Julie Brown, as well as a bachelors degree in dance from Hofstra University), and his hip fashion awareness often inform his works. Megalopolis, a large-scale work that his dancers and Juilliard students performed at Fall for Dance, featured glitter and sequins and a confrontational, look-at-me outrageousness. As with all his work, there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. He entertains generously as well as intelligently. And he can turn out something very pure and far removed from urban, edgy angst, such as last year’s Bird Watching, a contemporary nature study set to a Haydn symphony.
He describes the Fashion Week extravaganza, which featured 150 top models, as “another huge lesson in collaboration. It was fun, it certainly came with a bit of stress, and it was high profile and sexy and a little bit glamorous. It was an exciting gig—and challenging, too.”
Busy as he is, Keigwin himself is not performing for the moment. But that’s a temporary situation, he confirms. “I’m definitely not done dancing—just taking a little breather. But I have a feeling there will be a solo coming in the next year and a half.” Meanwhile, pre-production for Rent (for which auditions will soon take place) and the upcoming rehearsal period for Tales of the City (which opens June 1) will keep him more than occupied right after the Joyce season.

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